Thursday, December 09, 2021

Omicron may be able to evade vaccines. Here's what Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca plan to do about that

The United States led the global race to develop a viable vaccine against COVID-19.

But a year after the first shots received emergency approval from federal regulators, new variants of the virus are changing the game.

Omicron, the wildcard variant already detected in multiple US states and more than 30 countries, including Australia, is the latest to emerge.

With its dastardly combination of mutations, scientists fear it may spread quickly and sidestep vaccines.

A small study out of South Africa suggests the Pfizer vaccine provides only partial protection from Omicron, but boosters might make up the difference.

Governments and companies worldwide are already moving to stop the variant wreaking havoc, with some floating the possibility of variant-specific booster shots.

Here's what's happening so far, and what it could mean for you.

One of the biggest questions facing scientists as they scramble to learn more about the Omicron variant is how existing COVID-19 vaccines will perform against it.

"There are three main characteristics that we worry about with viruses like Omicron," said Dr Celine Gounder, an epidemiologist from the NYU Grossman School of Medicine.

"First of all, is it more infectious or contagious?

"Number two, is it more virulent or less virulent? In other words, does it cause less-severe disease in individuals who are infected?

"And, number three, is it immune-evading? And this is one characteristic of Omicron that is concerning."

The new variant has around 50 mutations — more than double its predecessor, Delta — including many on its spike, the viral protein that vaccines or illness train the body's immune system to fight with antibodies.

Even so, Dr Gounder is optimistic current vaccines will continue to provide some level of protection, especially with the addition of booster shots.

"We suspect there may be some reduction in vaccine effectiveness but that people will still remain well protected against severe disease, hospitalisation and death, even with an Omicron infection," she said.

While scientists assess the threat of the new variant, vaccine manufacturers are looking at whether their products may need to be modified.

What are vaccine manufacturers doing?

The makers of US-approved vaccines Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, as well as AstraZeneca — which is widely used in Europe and Australia — have all begun to study Omicron.

"[We] believe that fully vaccinated individuals will still have a high level of protection against severe disease caused by Omicron," said a spokesperson for BioNTech, which developed its shot with Pfizer.

"We anticipate that booster vaccination will further increase protection against severe disease and potentially provide protection against disease of any severity."

In the case of an "escape variant" — a dominant strain of the virus that evades the immunity given by vaccines or previous infections — BioNTech and Pfizer say they can adapt their mRNA vaccine within six weeks and start shipping doses within 100 days.

Similarly, Moderna is developing an Omicron-specific booster version of its mRNA vaccine that could be ready for clinical testing in 60 to 90 days.

"From the beginning, we have said that, as we seek to defeat the pandemic, it is imperative that we are proactive as the virus evolves," Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel said in a statement.

The company is also studying two "multivalent" boosters, which are designed to target common mutations seen across multiple variants. Those results are expected in coming weeks.

As well, Johnson & Johnson is pursuing an Omicron-specific version of its one-shot vaccine that, it says, will be progressed as needed.

"We will not be complacent," the company's global head of research and development, Dr Mathai Mammen, said in a statement.

How soon could Omicron boosters be available?
If modified vaccines prove necessary, the White House believes it could make them widely available within a few months.

That includes the time needed to develop and manufacture the doses, as well as obtaining necessary federal approvals.

"We are planning in that scenario not only for supporting the manufacturers through that process if needed, but also for how would we rapidly get shots in arms," White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients told a recent briefing.

"And we know how to do that, given the experience we've had the last year, and that is lessons learned about how we deployed the federal pharmacy programs, set up mass-vaccination sites, go to community health centres and rural clinics."

Boosters, Delta and the long winter ahead

In the US, Delta remains the dominant strain of COVID-19 and is leading a surge of cases going into winter.

The main things people can do to protect themselves — regardless of variants — are to get vaccinated, and wear masks indoors and in public places, according to Dr Gounder.

In countries where the option is available, she also recommends bolstering immunity with booster shots, particularly for the elderly and immunocompromised.

"What we've seen with prior immune-evading variants, like the Beta variant, is you could overcome that relative immune evasion by giving a booster dose of the currently available vaccines," she said.

"With respect to how quickly [or] how often new variants emerge, that is — to some degree — in our control.

"As long as we allow the virus to spread from person to person, every time it spreads from one person to another, it replicates and it has the opportunity to mutate."


New research finds vaccine only partially effective against Omicron

New research from South Africa suggests the highly-mutated Omicron variant can partially dodge protection from two doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Alex Sigal, a professor at the Africa Health Research Institute, detailed some results from initial experiments on Twitter, revealing there was "a very large drop" in neutralisation of the Omicron variant relative to an earlier Covid strain.

Neutralising antibodies are an indicator of the body's immune response.

There are grave concerns about how well existing vaccines will work against the Omicron strain, as its spike proteins differ dramatically to the original coronavirus variant.

Results better than expected

But the study did offer some hope, showing blood from people who had received two doses of the vaccine and had a prior infection were mostly able to neutralise the variant.

This means booster doses could be key to stopping infections.

"These results are better than I expected. The more antibodies you've got, the more chance you'll be protected from Omicron," Sigal said on Twitter.

According to an official manuscript, which has not yet been peer reviewed, the lab tested blood from 12 people who had been vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Blood from five out of six people who had been vaccinated as well as previously infected with Covid-19 still neutralised the Omicron variant.

However, the lab has not tested the variant against blood from people who had received a booster dose as they are not yet available in South Africa.

The lab observed a 41-fold decline in levels of neutralising antibodies against the Omicron variant.

Sigal added the data will likely be adjusted as more experiments are completed.

There is no indication at this stage whether the vaccine is less able to prevent severe illness or death.

Scientists also believe other kinds of cells such as B-cells and T-cells, which are stimulated by the vaccines, could offer protection.

The Omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa last month, has triggered global alarm amid fears of another surge in infections.

The World Health Organisation classified Omicron on November 26 as a "variant of concern", but said there was no evidence to support the need for new vaccines.

There is not significant data yet on how other vaccines from Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and other drugmakers hold up against the new variant.




Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Moderna or Novavax after AstraZeneca jab confers high Covid immunity, study finds

Combining different approaches to immunity does have intuitive appeal

The finding has important implications for lower-income countries that have not yet completed their primary vaccination campaigns, as it suggests you do not need access to mRNA vaccines – and therefore ultra-cold storage facilities – to trigger an extremely potent Covid-19 vaccine response.

The strongest T-cell response of all was generated by a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by a dose of the Novavax vaccine – both of which can be stored in a standard refrigerator.

The University of Oxford-led Com-Cov study set out to establish whether mixing and matching Covid-19 vaccines during primary immunisation schedules could be detrimental or beneficial to the overall immune response to vaccination. Such flexibility could be crucial to ensuring the rapid deployment of these vaccines in low- and middle-income countries, where vaccine supply may be inconsistent.

“What we’re seeing is that there’s a great amount of flexibility in the primary immunisation schedule,” said Prof Matthew Snape at the University of Oxford, who led the research. “Just because you’ve received dose one of a particular vaccine, doesn’t mean you have to receive the same vaccine for dose two.”

The study also bolsters confidence that using the Moderna vaccine as a booster dose in people who have previously received the AstraZeneca jab should result in high levels of neutralising antibodies and T-cells.

It follows separate data published last week suggesting that both the Pfizer and Moderna jabs can dramatically strengthen the body’s immune defences.

The 1,070 British participants received a first dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine, followed nine weeks later by a second dose of the same vaccine, or either the Moderna or Novavax jab.

Levels of neutralising antibodies were 17 times higher among those who received the AstraZeneca vaccine followed by the Moderna vaccine and four times higher among those who received AstraZenaca followed by Novavax, compared with those who received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

For those who started with the Pfizer jab, receiving a second dose of the Moderna vaccines jab resulted in 1.3 times as many neutralising antibodies than with two doses of Pfizer; while receiving Novavax as the second jab resulted in 20% fewer antibodies.

The study, published in the Lancet, also revealed differences in T-cell responses after combinations of different types of vaccines.

Vaccines that are mRNA-based, such as the Pfizer and Moderna jab, deliver a small piece of genetic code known as messenger RNA to human cells, instructing them to manufacture the coronavirus spike protein themselves; viral vector vaccines such as the AstraZeneca jab do the same thing, but use a harmless virus to deliver these instructions; whereas protein-based vaccines, such as the Novavax jab, deliver pre-made fragments of the spike protein alongside an immune-stimulating adjuvant.

While two doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine resulted in similar numbers of T-cells, combining the AstraZeneca vaccine with a second dose of Moderna resulted in 3.5 times more T-cells. A second dose of Novavax resulted in 4.8 times more T-cells.

For the Pfizer jab, a second dose of Moderna resulted in 1.5 times more T-cells, while a second jab of Novavax resulted in fewer T-cells.

“It tells us that the RNA and the viral vector vaccines are doing something quite different when it comes to priming for the T-cell response,” said Snape.

Previous research on other viral vector vaccines, such as the Ebola vaccine, had suggested that a mix-and-match approach could lead to enhanced immune responses.

“What was a bit more surprising is that we didn’t see that so well with the RNA vaccines – especially when it comes to the T-cell response, said Snape. “RNA followed by a protein (Novavax) was slightly underwhelming when it came to the T-cell response.”

The study also examined the impact of these different vaccine combinations against the Delta and Beta variants. In all cases, there was a reduction in levels of neutralising antibodies, but there was very little drop-off in T-cell responses.

Both the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and the World Health Organization are currently considering whether to authorise the Novavax vaccine, and are expected to announce their decision within days or weeks. WHO authorisation would enable the vaccine to be delivered via the Covax initiative.

Dr Richard Hatchett, chief executive of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said: “This is extremely encouraging and valuable data on the potential to mix-and-match Covid-19 vaccines in primary immunisation schedules.

Knowing that a second dose of a different Covid-19 vaccine can generate a robust immune response is advantageous in helping the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines through Covax, especially in populations still urgently waiting for their primary immunisation or in those partially vaccinated.”


A UK doctor who was banned from using social media after posting a viral video questioning vaccines and masks has won a court case against a medical tribunal

Only on a technicality, ufortunately

The High Court on Friday did not weigh in on any of Dr Samuel White’s claims, but rather found the General Medical Council’s Interim Orders Tribunal made an “error of law” when it imposed restrictions on the GP’s registration after he was accused of spreading Covid-19 misinformation.

Dr White, who was a partner at a practice in Hampshire, posted a seven-minute video to Instagram in June explaining why he had resigned from his job, saying he could no longer work “because of the lies” around the pandemic, which he said had been “so vast” he could no longer “stomach or tolerate” them.

He claimed doctors and nurses had “their hands tied behind their backs” preventing them from using “safe and proven treatments” such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, which he said were a form of “early intervention” in the disease.

Dr White questioned the safety of the Covid-19 vaccines, stated that 99 per cent of people who contract the virus survive, and raised concerns about false positives associated with PCR tests.

“Masks do nothing, by the way, they do absolutely nothing,” he said towards the end of the video.

“They don’t help you, they don’t help anyone else. Take off the mask.”

Dr White appeared on conspiracy theory podcast SGT Report in August where he elaborated on his views.

He described the mRNA vaccines as “genetic manipulation” and claimed the vaccination campaign was “one of the most egregious, heinous crimes that we’ve seen in modern history, perhaps in all history, because it’s happened on such a global scale”.

Later that month, the tribunal ruled that Dr White’s actions “may pose a real risk to public safety”.

The IOT imposed conditions on Dr White restricting him from “posting or sharing his views on the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated aspects on any social media platforms and requiring previous posts to be removed”.

“Dr White’s alleged means of imparting information in his capacity as a registered doctor, by way of social media platforms, to a wide and possibly uninformed audience does not allow for individual circumstances and does not give the opportunity for a holistic consideration of Covid-19, its implications and possible treatments and potential for reducing risk to health in individual circumstances,” the tribunal said.

Dr White’s barrister, Francis Hoar, argued the restrictions placed on his client were a “severe imposition” on his freedom of expression protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The matter was heard by the High Court last month.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Dove said the tribunal had failed to follow the procedures set out in the Human Rights Act 1998, which require that for any interim order General Medical Council must ask itself “whether or not the respondent would probably succeed at any subsequent tribunal hearing”.

“It is clear that the IOT did not direct themselves to the tests required,” he said.

“The decision of the IOT was clearly wrong and cannot stand … There was an error of law in the IOT’s decision based upon the nature of the conditions which they intended to impose and the impact which they had on Article 10. The decision was wrong from a purely procedural perspective.”

He stressed that it had not been “necessary for the court to express any opinion as to the merits of the opinions with which this case is concerned in order to achieve a resolution of the matter”.




Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Dying COVID-19 Patient Recovers After Court Orders Hospital to Administer Ivermectin

The elite hate Ivermectin because Trump recommended it. They've got the ethics of a flea

An elderly COVID-19 patient has recovered after a court order allowed him to be treated with ivermectin, despite objections from the hospital in which he was staying, according to the family’s attorney.

After an Illinois hospital insisted on administering expensive remdesivir to the patient and the treatment failed, his life was saved after a court ordered that an outside medical doctor be allowed to use the inexpensive ivermectin to treat him, over the hospital’s strenuous objections.

Ivermectin tablets have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat humans with intestinal strongyloidiasis and onchocerciasis, two conditions caused by parasitic worms. Some topical forms of ivermectin have been approved to treat external parasites such as head lice and for skin conditions such as rosacea. The drug is also approved for use on animals.

Remdesivir has been given emergency use authorization by the FDA for treating certain categories of human patients that have been hospitalized with COVID-19. But the use of ivermectin to treat humans suffering from COVID-19 has become controversial because the FDA hasn’t approved its so-called off-label use to treat the disease, which is caused by the CCP virus also known as SARS-CoV-2.

Critics have long accused the FDA of dragging its heels and being dangerously over-cautious and indifferent to human suffering in its approach to regulating pharmaceuticals, a criticism that led to then-President Donald Trump signing the Right to Try Act in May 2018. The law, according to the FDA, “is another way for patients who have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases or conditions who have tried all approved treatment options and who are unable to participate in a clinical trial to access certain unapproved treatments.”

Medical doctors are free to prescribe ivermectin to treat COVID-19, even though the FDA claims that its off-label use could be harmful in some circumstances. Clinical human trials of the drug for use against COVID-19 are currently in progress, according to the agency.

The drug “most definitely” saved the elderly patient’s life “because his condition changed right immediately after he took ivermectin,” attorney for the family, Kirstin M. Erickson of Chicago-based Mauck and Baker, told The Epoch Times.

Sun Ng, 71, who was visiting the United States from Hong Kong to celebrate his granddaughter’s first birthday, became ill with COVID-19 and within days was close to death. He was hospitalized on Oct. 14 at Edward Hospital, in Naperville, Illinois, a part of the Edward-Elmhurst Health system. His condition worsened dramatically and he was intubated and placed on a ventilator a few days later.

Ng’s only child, Man Kwan Ng, who holds a doctoral degree in mechanical engineering, did her own research and decided that her father should take ivermectin, which some medical doctors believe is effective against COVID-19, despite the FDA’s guidance to the contrary.

But against the daughter’s wishes, the hospital refused to administer ivermectin and denied access to a physician willing to administer it.

The daughter went to court on her father’s behalf and on Nov. 1, Judge Paul M. Fullerton of the Circuit Court of DuPage County granted a temporary restraining order requiring the hospital to allow ivermectin to be given to the patient. The hospital refused to comply with the court order.

At a subsequent court hearing on Nov. 5, Fullerton said one physician who testified described Sun Ng as “basically on his death bed,” with a mere 10 to 15 percent chance of survival. Ivermectin can have minor side effects such as dizziness, itchy skin, and diarrhea at the dosage suggested for Ng, but the “risks of these side effects are so minimal that Mr. Ng’s current situation outweighs that risk by one-hundredfold,” Fullerton said.

The judge issued a preliminary injunction that day directing the hospital to “immediately allow … temporary emergency privileges” to Ng’s physician, Dr. Alan Bain, “solely to administer Ivermectin to this patient.”

The hospital resisted the order on Nov. 6 and 7, denying Bain access to his patient. The hospital claimed that it couldn’t let Bain in because he wasn’t vaccinated against COVID-19 and that its chief medical officer wasn’t available to “proctor” Bain administering ivermectin.

The daughter’s attorneys filed an emergency report with the court on Nov. 8 and Fullerton heard from both sides. The judge admonished the hospital and restated that it must allow Bain inside over a period of 15 days to do his job. When the hospital filed a motion to stay the order, Fullerton denied it, again directing the facility to comply.

The ivermectin appears to have worked, and Sun Ng has recovered from COVID-19. He was discharged by the hospital on Nov. 27. “My father’s recovery is amazing,” his daughter, Man Kwan Ng, said in a statement.

“My father is a tough man. He was working so hard to survive, and of course, with God’s holding hands. He weaned off oxygen about three days after moving out of the ICU. He started oral feeding before hospital discharge. He returned home without carrying a bottle of oxygen and a feeding tube installed to his stomach. He can now stand with a walker at the bedside and practice stepping. After being sedated for a month on a ventilator in ICU, his performance is beyond our expectations. Praise the Lord.”

Attorney Erickson said the “happy” end result here provides “hope for the nation.”

“We get calls from all over the place,” she told The Epoch Times. “People that want to sue hospitals after someone’s passed, they wanted to get the medicine and couldn’t. Obviously, that’s a different, difficult case because a medical malpractice case is very difficult.”

People just want to do what’s best for their family members and “find ivermectin themselves” and have it on hand “and use it when someone starts to develop symptoms,” Erickson said.

She said her legal team and client were “really thankful” that Ng recovered and “we salute” Judge Fullerton, Dr. Bain, and others, as well as the hospital for abiding by the court order in the end.


Gum laced with a plant-grown protein is found to reduce COVID-19 transmission by 95% after trapping and neutralizing the virus in the person's saliva

A team of scientists led by Penn State University infused gum with a plant-grown protein and found it 'traps' the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The protein, known as ACE2, prevents the virus from attaching to a host cell in the human body by interacting with SARS-CoV-2's receptor binding domain - this facilitates virus attachment to the receptor and fusion with cell membrane.

When saliva samples from coronavirus patients were exposed to the ACE2 gum, researchers observed 50 mg of the cinnamon-flavored gum reduced viral entry by 95 percent.

The research team is currently working toward obtaining permission to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate whether the approach is safe and effective when tested in people infected with SARS-CoV-2.

Henry Daniell at Penn State's School of Dental Medicine, who led the research, said in a statement: 'SARS-CoV-2 replicates in the salivary glands, and we know that when someone who is infected sneezes, coughs, or speaks some of that virus can be expelled and reach others.

'This gum offers an opportunity to neutralize the virus in the saliva, giving us a simple way to possibly cut down on a source of disease transmission.'

Coronavirus gains access to bodily cells by attaching itself to a protein called ACE2 and the new chewing gum was developed with a copy of that protein, allowing it to mimic bodily cells.

This tricks the virus into attaching to chewing gum chemicals, instead of the saliva, where it is neutralized and unable to be transmitted to someone else.

To test the gum, the team grew ACE2 in plants, paired with another compound that enables the protein to cross mucosal barriers and facilitates binding and incorporated the resulting plant material into cinnamon-flavored gum tablets.

Incubating samples obtained from nasopharyngeal swabs from COVID-positive patients with the gum, they showed that the ACE2 present could neutralize SARS-CoV-2 viruses.

The scientists observed that the gum largely prevented viral particles from entering cells, which was done by blocking the ACE2 receptor on the cells or binding directly to the spike protein.

And the results showed that levels of the viral RNA in the person's saliva were almost undetectable.

Though the research is still in the early stages of development, if the clinical trials prove the gum is safe and effective, it could be given to patients whose infection status is unknown or even for dental check-ups when masks must be removed, to reduce the likelihood of passing the virus to caregivers, according to the researchers.

'We are already using masks and other physical barriers to reduce the chance of transmission,' said Daniell. 'This gum could be used as an additional tool in that fight.'


Germany imposes COVID-19 restrictions on unvaccinated, proposes vaccine mandate

Ezra Levant tweets: "It's quite a change for Germany. For nearly a decade, they've let in millions of migrants from the Middle East and Africa with no screening, no documents, no restrictions. But their own citizens are now banned from the streets and hunted by police"

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says people who are not vaccinated will be barred from non-essential stores, and cultural and recreational venues.

The nation's parliament will also consider a general vaccine mandate as part of efforts to curb coronavirus infections as the number of new cases again tops 70,000 in 24 hours.

Speaking after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Ms Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns German hospitals could be overloaded with people suffering COVID-19 infections, which were more likely to be serious in those who had not been vaccinated.

"The situation in our country is serious," Ms Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measure an "act of national solidarity".

She said officials also agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year — an effort that will be boosted by allowing dentists and pharmacists to administer the shots.

Ms Merkel herself backed the most contentious proposal of imposing a general vaccine mandate. She said parliament would debate the proposal with input from the country's national ethics committee.

If passed, it could take effect as early as February, Ms Merkel said, adding she would have voted in favour of the measure if she was still a member of parliament.




Monday, December 06, 2021

BOOK REVIEW: "A Plague Upon Our House: My Fight at the Trump White House to Stop COVID from Destroying America", by Scott W. Atlas (Bombardier Books, 328 pp., $28)

How could public officials vowing to “follow the science” on Covid-19 persist in promoting ineffective strategies with terrible consequences? In a memoir of his time on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, Scott W. Atlas provides an answer: because the nation’s governance was hijacked by three bureaucrats with scant interest in scientific research or debate—and no concern for the calamitous effects of their edicts.

Atlas’s book, A Plague Upon Our House, is an astonishing read, even for those who have been closely following this disaster. A veteran medical researcher and health-policy analyst at the Hoover Institution, Atlas, a radiologist, joined the Task Force six months into the pandemic, after he had published estimates that lockdowns could ultimately prove more deadly than Covid.

Atlas expected to spend his time at the White House discussing scientific data and debating the best strategies for protecting public health. Instead, he found that the Task Force included “zero public health policy experts and no experts with medical knowledge who also analyzed economic, social, and other broad public health impacts other than the infection itself.” Vice President Mike Pence chaired the Task Force, but Atlas says that Pence and the other members were regularly cowed into submission by three doctors who dominated from the start: Deborah Birx, the Task Force’s coordinator, along with Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control.

Atlas calls them “the troika” because of their strategy for presenting a united front, never disagreeing with one another during the meetings in the White House Situation Room. (Reporting later revealed that they had made a pact to resign in unison if any of them was fired.) These veterans of the federal bureaucracy had worked closely together during the AIDS epidemic, and their track record was hardly reassuring. Their long and costly quest to develop an AIDS vaccine ultimately failed, but they did manage to persuade the public that AIDS would spread widely beyond gay men and intravenous drug users. Redfield, with some help from Fauci, was the chief prophet of a “heterosexual breakout,” a threat that terrified Americans for more than a decade but never materialized.

The troika stoked more needless fears during the Covid pandemic, continually emphasizing worst-case scenarios—the computer models, for example, that wrongly forecast millions of American deaths in the summer of 2020. Surveys showed that most Americans, especially young people, vastly overestimated their risk of serious disease. Yet Fauci still wasn’t satisfied, as Atlas discovered when Fauci complained during one meeting that Americans didn’t take the virus seriously. “I challenged him to clarify his point,” Atlas writes, “because I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘So you think people aren’t frightened enough?’ He said, ‘Yes, they need to be more afraid.’ To me, this was another moment of Kafkaesque absurdity. . . . Instilling fear in the public is absolutely counter to what a leader in public health should do. To me, it is frankly immoral, although I kept that to myself.”

Fauci got the most media attention of the troika, but Atlas thinks that Birx did the most damage. As Pence’s chief subordinate on the Task Force, she shaped its agenda, participated in the regular “Covid huddle” with White House officials, and traveled the country, successfully pressuring state and local leaders to issue mask mandates and close businesses and schools. In one of Atlas’s first meetings with her, he asked her what she considered the strongest scientific evidence for the efficacy of masks against Covid. She cited a report published by the Centers for Disease Control about a hair salon in Missouri, where two stylists infected with Covid had worn masks that supposedly prevented the virus from infecting their customers.

“I knew the study well,” Atlas writes, “having already dissected it in detail with a few epidemiologists before I set foot in Washington. My colleagues had all laughed at it. It was poorly done, and the conclusions were not valid. It was an embarrassment that it had been published prominently on the CDC website.” Among the many limitations of this small study, critics had noted that, while none of the customers contacted by the researchers reported Covid symptoms, most of them were never tested for the virus, and many of the stylists’ customers were never contacted at all.

Atlas tells how he tried, “in as diplomatic a way as I could muster,” to discuss these limitations with Birx, but she bristled. He soon realized that she wasn’t even familiar with the basic aspects of the study she was using to justify mask mandates across the U.S. Nor did she or the rest of the troika show interest in the many far more rigorous studies with contrary findings. Though Redfield would later concede, after leaving the CDC, that there was a “paucity of data” to justify mask mandates, during the Task Force meetings the troika refused to debate any scientific research challenging their mask mandates and lockdowns, according to Atlas. “Unlike scientists with whom I had worked for decades,” he writes, “I never saw them voice any critical assessment, methodological or otherwise, of the pitfalls of any published studies.” Atlas says that they never brought scientific papers to the meetings and declined to respond to his presentations about the research.

“For what I anticipated would be a data-filled discussion about opening schools and the risk to children,” Atlas says, “I brought approximately fifteen different studies and a summary sheet of the research. For what I hoped would be a discussion about testing guidance, I brought and distributed articles and other documents about the role and pitfalls of PCR testing and concerns about cycle thresholds. Even though I handed out a number of these published studies to everyone at the table, no one ever mentioned them in the Situation Room. My guess was that no one in the Fauci-Redfield-Birx troika ever opened them.”

Instead, the troika of bureaucrats obsessed over Birx’s charts showing how many Covid tests had been administered and what percentage were positive. They proclaimed success for their strategies when infections started to wane in states like New York and Arizona—never mind that the downward trends began before the lockdowns and mask mandates were imposed. They ignored inconvenient data, like the chart that Atlas reproduces comparing the rates of Covid cases in states with and without mask mandates: the two curves remained virtually identical throughout the pandemic. “The doctors in the Task Force showed no study about mask efficacy or any other of their policies, and they never once mentioned the harms of the lockdowns that I witnessed,” Atlas says. “Their sole focus was stopping cases, even when their policies were already implemented and were failing to do so.”

Atlas’s book is obviously a one-sided account and at times lapses into self-righteousness. But his portrayal of the troika—a better term might be the three blind mice—rings true, both because of the details he provides and because it jibes with what he and they were saying (and not saying) publicly throughout the pandemic. It may seem incredible that the troika would violate a fundamental principle of public health by ignoring the devasting collateral damage of their policies, yet they never even pretended to conduct a cost-benefit analysis. “Perhaps the most remarkable insight in the Fauci email trove,” Atlas notes, referring to the thousands of emails from Fauci that were made public, is “the total lack of mention of harms from the lockdown throughout the pandemic.”

The troika also ignored dozens of studies showing the ineffectiveness of lockdowns, and the data showing that places that avoided lockdowns, like Florida and Sweden, did as well as or better than average in preventing Covid deaths. “I never fully understood why there was no admission, even internally by the Task Force, that the Birx-Fauci strategy did not work,” Atlas writes, concluding that it wasn’t simply because the media was eager to champion anyone who questioned President Donald Trump’s desire to reopen schools and businesses. “Disagreeing with Trump, especially in this election year, ensured near idolatry on cable TV and in the New York Times or Washington Post. But I never thought politics was the main driver of those on the Task Force. Perhaps it was an unstated fear that they were in way too deep to admit their errors.”

Mainstream media were the chief weapon the troika wielded against Atlas and scientists who opposed lockdowns and instead advocated a policy of “focused protection” that would concentrate testing and related resources on the elderly or other high-risk populations. (Atlas invited Birx to a meeting in the Oval Office with some of these eminent researchers, but she refused to attend.) Journalists caricatured their proposals as a callous “let it rip” strategy, portraying Atlas as an unqualified ideologue, unconcerned about the spread of the virus. Some of the false accusations in the press came from anonymous sources on the Task Force—presumably Fauci and Birx, Atlas writes, though Fauci denied it when Atlas confronted him. On the record, Fauci dismissed Atlas as an “outlier,” an assessment that journalists reinforced by repeatedly noting that he was “not an epidemiologist,” as if that were the only relevant qualification for determining overall public-health policies.

Fauci, Birx, and Redfield were not epidemiologists, either, but they were enshrined as “the science” because they provided what mainstream journalists craved: scare stories that boosted ratings and made Trump look bad. During his first meeting with Trump, Atlas writes, the president told him, “I’m sure you will teach me many things while you’re here. But there is only one thing you’ll learn from me. Only one. You will learn how vicious, how biased, how unfair the media is.” Atlas soon came to agree, as he endured personal smears and watched relentlessly alarmist coverage of the pandemic: “No opportunity to inflame the voters was going to be missed by what I now believe are the most despicable group of unprincipled liars one could ever imagine—the American media.”

Atlas says that Trump and senior White House aides told him privately that they disagreed with the troika’s policies, and some wanted to fire Birx because she was so stubborn and defensive. (Atlas tells how, after he contradicted her during a meeting in the Oval Office, she “threw a fit” and screamed at him, “Never do that again! And in the Oval!”) But the aides feared that firing any of the troika, or even disagreeing openly, would cause a media firestorm and doom Trump’s reelection. “We must not rock the boat” was their mantra, Atlas writes. “To which I would reply, ‘The boat is frigging capsized.’”

The politician who comes off best is Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who had, Atlas observes, “a far more detailed understanding of the pandemic than anyone I had encountered in the Task Force.” Trump comes off fairly well, too, in his conversations with Atlas, as he frets about the harms of the lockdowns and instinctively recognizes the futility of the troika’s strategies. But Atlas lays the ultimate blame for the lockdowns—“a crime against humanity”—on Trump himself, because he allowed Birx and her allies to remain in charge. “This president, widely known for his signature ‘You’re fired!’ declaration, was misled by his closest political intimates,” Atlas writes. “All for fear of what was inevitable anyway—skewering from an already hostile media.”

When he resigned from the Task Force in a telephone call to Trump, Atlas writes, the president told him, “You were right about everything, all along the way. And you know what? You were also right about something else. Fauci wasn’t the biggest problem of all of them. It really wasn’t him.” Trump meant that it was Birx, and Atlas couldn’t resist a parting shot at the aides who had been so afraid of her. Knowing that they were listening on the speakerphone in the Oval Office, Atlas said, “Well, Mr. President, I will say this. You have balls. I have balls. But the closest people around you—they didn’t. They had no balls. They let you down.” They let down the rest of the country, too.




Sunday, December 05, 2021

More vaccinated people are dying than unvaccinated people?

Some official British statistics say so. I first noted the problem a couple of weeks ago but could not see where the problem lay. I suspected a sampling problem but could not see where it was. The graph I saw at that time is below:

image from

I do now however understand it, courtesy of the post below. Let me see if I can put it in a clearer way.

If the vacine is only 90% effective, there SHOULD be many cases of vaccinated people getting ill. 10% is a lot of people. So the vaccinated who get ill are drawn from an unfortunate remnant of vaccinated people -- only 10% The vaccinated people who get the virus ARE NOT TYPICAL of vaccinated people. So comparing their numbers with unvaccinated people is not a valid comparison. The vaccinated people who get the virus are not a fair sample of all vaccinated people.

So that explains the large number of vaccinated people becoming ill. Why do so few unvaccinated people become ill? Initially because they a minority of the population but mainly because of who they are. They will almost always be people who feel their health is good and that it will beat the virus by itself. And people who feel in robust health will almost always actually be in robust health. And the small number who get the virus show that they ARE mostly in robust health and so few of them die.

So the two populations are very differently selected so are not comparable

The latest data published by the UK Health Security Agency shows that of 3,726 COVID-19 deaths over a three-week period to November 21, 2,903 were people fully vaccinated against the disease, compared to 708 unvaccinated people.

However, those figures do not mean that vaccinated people are at a higher risk of death from COVID-19.

The UK report also provides the rate of death per 100,000 people in each group.

That data reveals that the rate of death among unvaccinated people across the UK was higher for every age bracket when compared to those who were double-dosed.

According to Tony Blakely, an epidemiologist at the University of Melbourne, when it came to being infected with the Delta variant of coronavirus, fully vaccinated people were around 90 per cent less likely to die than those who weren't vaccinated.

"We can say mathematically if vaccination reduces your chance of death by, say, 90 per cent, then once more than 90 per cent of the population is vaccinated you would expect the [number of] deaths among the vaccinated and unvaccinated to be similar," Professor Blakely said in an email.

He noted that high rates of natural COVID-19 infection in the UK community added complexity.

"For example, if 90 per cent of the population are vaccinated and, of the remaining 10 per cent half of them (that is, 5 per cent of total population) have already had a natural infection, they will be better protected than the vaccinated," he explained.

"So, because an increasing fraction of the unvaccinated have had an infection in the past, this will tip more of the infections, hospitalisations and deaths to be among the vaccinated.

"But the bottom line remains — the unvaccinated have a much much higher chance of death on their first infection than do the vaccinated."

Additionally, in footnotes attached to its data, the UK agency notes that vaccinations were prioritised for individuals who were more vulnerable to catching COVID-19, while "individuals in risk groups may be more at risk of hospitalisation or death due to non-COVID-19 causes, and thus may be hospitalised or die with COVID-19 rather than because of COVID-19".


Omicron is being grown in labs and studied as scientists race to unlock the COVID-19 variant's mysteries

Every day for the last week, Thumbi Ndung'u and his team of researchers have spent hours inside a room with the world's most feared coronavirus variant.

To keep themselves from becoming infected, they pull on white plastic cover-alls and wear industrial respirators slung around their waists.

While the rest of the world braces for the possible spread of the new Omicron variant, Professor Ndung'u is doing something seemingly counterintuitive: He's growing it in a laboratory.

His team is among a vanguard of scientists across the world racing to examine the mysterious new variant under tightly controlled conditions to understand how it behaves.

Omicron, more a distant cousin than a direct descendant of the Delta variant, has strange and concerning features.

In the worst-case scenario, this evolution could mean a more transmissible version of COVID-19, with the ability to evade existing vaccines.

For Professor Ndung'u, a Kenya-born Harvard-educated virologist from the Africa Health Research Insitute in Durban, none of that is certain until he and his colleagues do their work.

"What we have been doing so far is speculate," he said.

"This is a very important next step."

The three big questions about Omicron

Although the variant has already driven governments the world over to slam borders shut and healthcare systems to bristle, there is still remarkably little known about Omicron.

What began with reports of a new variant first identified in Botswana and South Africa late last month has now grown to a smattering of cases in Europe, the US and Australia, where authorities remain on high alert.

There are three key questions about the variant that are yet to be answered: How transmissible it is, how effective current vaccines will be against it, and what severity of symptoms it might cause in those infected?

In the absence of much real-world data on how Omicron affects human populations, laboratory testing is needed to see just how dangerous it is.

But the world is in for an anxious wait. Results may still be some weeks away.

For Professor Ndung'u and his team, unlocking the secrets of the variant is what they do best.

"From a scientific point of view, it's exciting," he said.

Even so, some South African doctors who have treated patients infected by Omicron are adamant the variant is different to what they have encountered in previous waves, though there is not enough data yet to decide that.

Angelique Coetzee, a GP at a family practice in Pretoria, was among the first to raise the alarm over Omicron with South African authorities last month.

So far, Dr Coetzee estimates she has seen about 30 patients infected with Omicron come through her clinic.

Her experience with Omicron is anecdotal, but she does have cause for cautious optimism.

"The majority of patients that we are seeing have mild symptoms," she said

"Most of the adults will phone us [after they recover] and say they are so much better. This is not something that you would see with the Delta variant."

One mystery that will likely take more time to solve is where Omicron originated.

Although it was first detected in Botswana and South Africa, earlier cases have since been reported in other countries.

Some have speculated it could have mutated inside a person with an already weakened immune system because of an HIV infection.

The immunocompromised tend to have viral infections persist for longer, increasingly the likelihood of a mutation occurring.

It's possible that higher rates of HIV in southern Africa, coupled with low COVID-19 vaccination rates, could have created an environment where the new variant was more likely to mutate. But there is simply no evidence this has actually happened, according to Professor Ndung'u.

"At the moment, I think the scientific evidence for that is sketchy," he said.

"But it's certainly a very important issue because of the fact that we have high HIV infection rates in southern Africa."

The rise of a new variant has forced experts in wealthier countries, including the United States, to reconsider the need of booster shots where previously they had been wary to endorse them without further evidence.

Australian authorities say they won't speed up the booster program for most people, despite Omicron concerns.

In Israel, the first country to widely distribute booster shots to teenagers and adults, the population might enjoy much better immunity to Omicron, said Professor Nadav Davidovitch, a public health physician at Ben Gurion University.

"Israel has an excellent vaccination campaign, so in this sense we are better prepared," he said.

"Probably the vaccine won't be exactly covering the variant. But there will be some coverage for sure."




Friday, December 03, 2021

Drug cocktail that could be a saviour: New Covid treatment is FOUR TIMES more effective at keeping patients out of intensive care, tests suggest

A new drug cocktail is four times more effective at keeping Covid patients out of intensive care, initial tests have suggested.

While the steroid dexamethasone was the first drug to be licensed for treating the virus, trials indicate that combining it with heart failure medication spironolactone yields better results.

A study, conducted by former vice-chancellor of Newcastle University Sir Christopher Edwards, analysed hospital patients in Delhi.

He found that, in hospitalised patients taking the ‘Spidex’ cocktail, just 5.4 per cent were admitted to intensive care compared to 19.6 per cent of those taking dexamethasone alone.

Now he is calling for wider trials of the Spidex regime as he believes more lives could be saved.

His findings, published in the journal Frontiers in Endocrinology, revealed 40 Covid patients taking Spidex performed better on every clinical, biochemical and radiological measure than 40 patients on a high dose of dexamethasone.

The treatment works by ‘turning off’ the impact the virus has on the body, rather than targeting the virus itself.

Sir Christopher hopes the combination should also work against the mutated Omicron virus.


Researchers shoot holes in study touted for confirming 'masks work' in curbing COVID

I rubbished this study on 3rd. September

An acclaimed study on the effectiveness of masks in reducing symptomatic COVID-19 is facing new scrutiny after a researcher highlighted the minuscule infection differences between "treatment" and control groups randomized across 600 Bangladeshi villages.

Accused of design flaws and overstating its findings when it was released in late August, the study's newly released data show only 20 more symptomatic COVID cases in the villages that didn't receive masks and related education, reminders and "role modeling by community leaders."

In a total study population of 342,126 adults, 1,106 people in the control group tested positive, compared to 1,086 in the treatment group. The latter group represented 52% of the study population.

"I have a hard time going from these numbers to the assured conclusions that 'masks work' that was promulgated by the media or the authors after this preprint [not yet peer reviewed] appeared," University of California Berkeley professor Ben Recht, who studies machine learning, wrote in an essay last week.

He said he was frustrated that the "raw number of seropositive cases" was left out of the preprint by researchers led by Yale University economists Jason Abaluck and Ahmed Mobarak, preventing him from "computing standard statistical analyses of their results."

The researchers posted the replication code and data in early November, long after media coverage touting "the largest randomized trial to demonstrate the effectiveness of surgical masks, in particular, to curb transmission of the coronavirus."

In light of the full release, "a complex intervention including an educational program, free masks, encouraged mask wearing, and surveillance in a poor country with low population immunity and no vaccination showed at best modest reduction in infection," Recht said.

The newly provided raw numbers exacerbate other weaknesses of the study, according to Recht, who was also initially skeptical of the research because of its "statistical ambiguity."

The study was not blinded, did not exclude pre-intervention infections, and was "highly complex" because of the mixed interventions, he said.

The three-percentage-point differential between household visit consent rates for the treatment and control groups, by itself, "could wash away the difference in observed cases," he explained, adding that relative measures of risk are "[o]ne of the dark tricks of biostatistics," which unlike hard case counts have a tendency to exaggerate effects.

'How robust can this possibly be?'

The UC Berkeley professor's analysis drew attention on Twitter, including from Harvard Medical School epidemiologist Martin Kulldorff, whose own skepticism of the protective power of masks for unvaccinated elderly people got him suspended by Twitter for a month.

"One of the problems of the study is that despite the vast size of the study, the primary endpoint depends on ~5000 blood samples collected" each from the treatment and control groups, Philadelphia cardiologist Anish Koka wrote in a related thread.

"So we are left to extrapolate from a 20 case difference tested in ~10,000 patients to a 300,000 patient study," he continued. "But how robust can this possibly be?"

Koka noted that Yale's Abaluck, a lead author, floated the idea of fining people for not wearing government-supplied cloth masks, the least effective kind, early in the pandemic. "It seems a bit much to go from these small differences to the police tracking down and fining people who don't mask in public," the cardiologist wrote.


Vaccines can kill

At what risk do you take a vaccine that might do more harm than good? Newly released documents support decisions by those who have been reluctant to get a COVID shot. Attorney Aaron Siri has published an initial report addressing information he demanded from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

In a discussion with a U.S. Congressional panel led by Senator Ron Johnson, Siri said his law firm had received hundreds of legal requests about COVID vaccination problems. The documents reveal over 150,000 incidents involving side effects have been reported to Pfizer.

Of the thousands of documented side effects, the data indicate more than 25,000 of these have directly affected the central nervous system. These numbers become even more disturbing when we consider the period for claims fell within a short two-and-a-half month window.

This timeframe was during the initial months when Pfizer was distributing vaccines under Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Pfizer even admits that the company was overwhelmed by, “the large numbers of spontaneous adverse event reports received for the product.”

The alarming ramifications of this data are further supported by shocking revelations within the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting System (VAERS) for COVID. There have been over 18,000 deaths resulting from the COVID vaccination and nearly 100,000 hospitalizations.

Nearly 100,000 more adverse vaccination incidents have required urgent care. There are thousands of reported cases of Anaphylaxis and Bell’s palsy. No one expected that there wouldn’t be problems with a hastily approved vaccination.

There aren’t many people fighting against the mandates who dispute that the vaccines have at some level been useful. They take issue with the tyrannical mandating of the COVID vaccine. Joe Biden has overstepped his authority. He is not a dictator, although he thinks he is.

The choice to receive a COVID vaccination should be a personal one. It should involve a thorough consideration of individual health circumstances. “The jab” may not be for everyone. The increasingly disturbing number of reported side effects must be part of the conversation. However, the mainstream media refuses to engage in open discussion.


Get ready for boosters every year: Pfizer boss says annual jabs needed to maintain 'very high protection'

Britons might need a Covid booster every year to maintain 'very high' levels of protection against the, Pfizer's boss said today after the UK ordered 114million more shots from his company and Moderna to vaccinate everyone until 2023.

Dr Albert Bourla, chief executive at the company which delivered the world's first Covid vaccine a year ago today, said global economies will probably need to rely on jabs for years to come to stay on top of new variants and counter waning immunity.

The UK has ordered another 114million doses that can be tweaked to fight off variants — including 54million Pfizer jabs and 60million Moderna doses in a deal thought to be worth around £2.05billion

Officials did not reveal how much the Pfizer jabs cost, but EU contracts show the bloc is spending about £16.50 per dose of Pfizer and £19.50 on Moderna's. They will arrive in 2022 and 2023, with plans already being drawn up to boost the nation's immunity for at least the next two years.




Thursday, December 02, 2021

UNC and Duke Offer Hope for a Universal Coronavirus Antibody Therapy

This is a report from a month ago. Strange that it has not been widely reported

A research team at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) and Duke University, in Durham, NC, identified an antibody that attacks SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, but also its variants and other types of coronaviruses. In their studies, the antibody, DH1047, works at preventing infection and fighting it after a person is diagnosed with COVID-19.

The investigators isolated two other antibodies that worked against some types of coronaviruses that infect animals and humans, but not all. These were DH1235 and DH1073. DH1073 was only effective against SARS-CoV-2.

“This antibody (DH1047) has the potential to be a therapeutic for the current epidemic,” said Barton Haynes, M.D., director of Duke Human Vaccine Institute and co-author of the study. “It could also be available for future outbreaks, if or when other coronaviruses jump from their natural animal hosts to humans.”

The new antibody was isolated from the blood of a patient infected with SARS in early 2000. That illness is caused by SARS-CoV-1, a close relative of the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes COVID-19. They also isolated it from a current COVID-19 patient.

In their research, they identified more than 1,700 antibodies from the two individuals. Of them, 50 could bind to SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2. Then they discovered that one of those cross-binding antibodies was particularly potent, able to attach to a range of coronaviruses as well as to SARS-C0V-1 and 2.

“This antibody binds to the coronavirus at a location that is conserved across numerous mutations and variations,” Haynes said. “As a result, it can neutralize a wide range of coronaviruses.”

The UNC team was led by co-senior author Ralph S. Baric, Ph.D., William R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. That group tested DH1047 in mice to see if it could block infections or minimize ongoing infections. It did both. Not only did it prevent the mice from developing SARS and COVID-19, but it also prevented variants such as Delta and other animal coronaviruses.

“The findings provide a template for the rational design of universal vaccine strategies that are variant-proof and provide broad protection from known and emerging coronaviruses,” Baric said.

In animals with severe lung symptoms, treatment with the antibody decreased the symptoms compared to the control group.

“The therapeutic activity even after mice were infected suggests that this could be a treatment deployed in the current pandemic, but also stockpiled to prevent the spread of a future outbreak or epidemic with a SARS-related virus,” said David Martinez, Ph.D., co-lead author and a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Epidemiology at UNC’s Gilling School. “This antibody could be harnessed to prevent maybe SARS-COV-3 or SARS-CoV-4.”

The journal article is: "A broadly cross-reactive antibody neutralizes and protects against sarbecovirus challenge in mice". See


Veteran icu nurse reveals shocking covid administrative policies that killed patients

Helen Smith is a veteran nurse who has worked in the Intensive Care Units of hospitals for more than two decades.

During an interview, Smith revealed some shocking stories about patient COVID treatment. The longtime nurse specifically said she did not cast blame on the doctors she worked side-by-side with.

Smith blamed the hospital bureaucrats for disastrous COVID policies forced on the medical staff. She began the interview talking about how she had never witnessed anything like this in her 25 years as an ICU nurse.

Smith said that doctors were not allowed to act in the best interest of each patient. She insisted that, “Everything is being regulated by higher-ups in the hospitals.” Her interview revealed that hospital administrators set policies that were dangerous.

She said that she had never seen such “unorthodox and unhygienic medical practices” used, especially during the height of a deadly pandemic. One of the most shocking things Smith said during the interview was the automatic treatment steps given to many COVID patients.

Smith explained, “They were dying because doctors were immediately intubating patients and providing them with remdesivir.” Remdesivir is an expensive drug that made the hospitals a huge amount of money.

However, it did nothing to help alleviate respiratory distress or help treat COVID. What it did do was to shut down many of these patients’ organs. Because hospital administrations were overly guarding against viral spread, they instantly stuck patients on intubation with a breathing tube.

Smith insists that the combination of remdesivir and intubation led to the deaths of hundreds of COVID patients. At $5,000 per bag, remdesivir as the go-to instant treatment for COVID was lining the pockets of the hospital administrators.

Astonishingly, Smith says the hospital is still using remdesivir despite the obvious dangers. In her experience, Smith said she had never seen anything like this. She said that immediately intubating patients is like signing their death certificates.

One doctor attempted to do something different. Smith said the doctor reverted to using ivermectin instead of remdesivir. He was saving patients. However, the hospital administration threatened to fire him if he didn’t stop.

Smith also sounded the alarm about how the hospital is reporting admissions and deaths related to the COVID vaccine. As part of Cleveland Clinic’s stroke center, Smith was shocked at the rise in the number of recent stroke cases.

She stressed that dozens of these were directly caused by the COVID vaccination. There were other types of critically ill patients, all who succumbed to sickness after getting vaccinated. Smith said the hospital refuses to attribute any death or critical illness to the vaccine.

What Helen Smith revealed during her interview must be validated before her claims can be broadcast as truth. However, there is little doubt that public trust in our medical system has been undermined by questionable COVID policies.

Most are well aware that hospital administrations add unnecessary procedures to pad patient bills. They are trying to make money for their hospital. However, there may be some evidence that these medical bureaucrats have set policies that killed people unnecessarily.


Pfizer Covid vaccine works against Omicron, Israel claims

Those up to date with a Pfizer Covid vaccine or booster shot should have high protection against the Omicron variant, the Israeli Health Minister has said.

While not citing any data, Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said on Tuesday that there was “room for optimism” based on “initial indications”, reported The Sun.

Hours later a report by an Israeli news channel claimed the Pfizer jab was 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection from Omicron.

Mr Horowitz told reporters on Tuesday: “In the coming days we will have more accurate information about the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron.

“But there is already room for optimism, and there are initial indications that those who are vaccinated with a vaccine still valid or with a booster, will also be protected from this variant.”

Epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely said it is very likely that cases of Omicron will continue to rise in Australia, while speaking to Sunrise on Thursday.

“We do expect case numbers to rise. It has probably got its tentacles into NSW, and it will rise, as it has overseas,” he said.

Professor Blakely said initial indications suggest the Omicron strain could be more mild than the Delta variant – and that could actually be a good thing for Australia.

“This one should be more mild, but we don’t know exactly how much more mild it is, so that means that the hospitalisation rate should be less severe. It might become our get out of the pandemic card,” he said.

“This may be a blessing if it displaces Delta and becomes the more mild version, it might help us get out of this pandemic.”

The Omicron variant was first reported in South Africa, though the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany have now all reported cases of the variant circulating before it was officially reported.




Wednesday, December 01, 2021

South African centre of the Omicron variant shows increase in hospitalisations

Figures emerging from the epicentre of South Africa’s Covid outbreak show a staggering rise in hospitalisations that indicate the new Omicron variant may not be as mild as hoped.

Covid cases in the City of Tshwane, a municipality that encompasses one of South Africa’s capitals Pretoria, in the Gauteng province, now account for more than half of the country’s infections.

Known for being a centre of academic excellence and home to a number of universities and foreign embassies, Tshwane has been thrown into turmoil by the emergence of the new Omicron variant.

The new strain was first detected in specimens collected in Gauteng on November 12 and it now dominates Covid infections in the area, accounting for about 76 per cent of genomically sequenced samples, although the numbers of samples are low.

Omicron now seems to have spread around the world and led to many countries closing their borders, including Australia. The World Health Organisation has declared it a variant of concern.

While much is still unknown about Omicron, it seems to be more infectious than the Delta strain, which may be due to a large number of mutations that could also make it harder to control with current vaccines.

There is hope though that the variant could induce a milder form of the disease, although this is yet to be proven.

Experts have cautioned about “misinformation” that Omicron is “mild”. Respected United States epidemiologist Dr Eric Feigl-Ding said it was “nonsense” and the theory was based on an “out-of-context quote”.

South African doctor Angelique Coetzee, who first alerted authorities about a possible variant, told The Telegraph in the United Kingdom that many of the patients she had seen had mild symptoms.

However, what was not as widely reported is that she was talking about a specific group of young, healthy patients. In the same article she also voiced concern about more severe illness in older people.

Hospitalisations in Gauteng now appear to be on the rise. Across the province, the number of hospital admissions increased by 330 per cent over two weeks from 135 cases in the week ending Saturday, November 13, to 580 cases last week, figures from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) show.

The total number of Covid cases also increased dramatically in Tshwane from 547 on Thursday, November 25, to 1204 cases on Monday, November 29, the Mayor Randall Williams said in a statement. Tshwane’s cases made up more than half of the 2273 cases recorded across South Africa on Monday.

Dr Feigl-Ding said even if Omicron was milder than Delta, the fact that it spread easier or could evade vaccines would still make it more dangerous. “Exponentially more cases is still exponentially more hospitalisation & deaths!” he tweeted.

Concerningly, children under the age of two years old made up about 10 per cent of hospital admissions in Tshwane, although this may be because parents were more likely to take babies to hospital just in case, Bloomberg reported.

“People are more likely to admit children as a precaution because if you treat them at home, something can go wrong – especially very young children because there is a higher proportion of death,” Dr Waasila Jassat from the NICD is quoted as saying.

According to The National, Dr Jassat said indications so far were that Omicron was not more severe than other strains. She said most of the eight people who died in the two weeks from November 14 to 28 were aged 60 to 69 years old.

Only 1.5 per cent of the children younger than four died and there were no deaths among those aged between five and 19 years old. “It doesn’t look at the moment like there is any increase in severity, but it is early,” she said.

It takes about two weeks for the rate of hospital admissions to reflect any increase in Covid cases and any rise in death rates will take even longer to emerge.

South Africa has very low vaccination rates with only 42 per cent of the population aged over 18 years old double dosed.


The New COVID Drugs Are a Bigger Deal Than People Realize

In infectious diseases, control of a pathogen means reducing its impact even if it remains endemic in the world. Fortunately, the United States is poised to authorize two oral antivirals: molnupiravir and Paxlovid. The former is the generic name of a drug made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics; the latter is the trade name of a drug combination made by Pfizer. Both come in pill form, and a five-day treatment course of each will provide certain patients with significant benefits.

These miraculous drugs arrived with minimal fanfare but represent the biggest advance yet in treating patients already infected with COVID-19. The supply of vaccines in the U.S. has exceeded demand for some time, and authorities recently widened eligibility to include children as young as 5, but uptake is not universal. Millions of Americans have decided, for a variety of reasons, not to get shots, while many more around the globe have yet to be offered a vaccine. And although the vaccines have remained amazingly effective against severe disease, some patients, especially those who are older or immunocompromised, remain at risk of hospitalization if they get a breakthrough infection.

The widespread use of oral treatments for influenza hints at the value of COVID drugs that can be provided in an outpatient setting and reduce the severity of symptoms for unvaccinated and vaccinated patients alike.

Molnupiravir and Paxlovid are particularly exciting because antivirals that effectively target viruses at specific points in their life cycle are the “holy grail” of viral therapeutics—as past experience with other viruses has shown.

Infection with HIV was fatal for nearly all patients until antivirals were developed against enzymes crucial to viral replication and researchers figured out how to combine those drugs to maximize their effectiveness and limit the emergence of resistant viral strains. These changes revolutionized HIV treatment, massively improving the prognosis for people who had access to antivirals. Instead of developing severe illness, treated patients could live healthily and expect normal life spans.

The development of these highly active oral antivirals for HIV infection took a decade and a half after the disease first came to light; the incredible progress in COVID-19 therapeutics took 18 months. Intriguingly, the COVID-19-treatment research borrowed many ideas from the HIV field; the two new COVID-19 drugs focus on similar pathways in the viral life cycle that HIV drugs target. In essence, these drugs prevent the target virus from reproducing itself.

Because they work differently from the majority of COVID-19 vaccines, which teach the immune system to identify and attack the coronavirus’s characteristic spike protein, the antivirals remain effective against mutant variants whose spike proteins are harder for immune cells to recognize. Designing, manufacturing, and distributing vaccines updated for new variants will take time, so the availability of antivirals will be all the more essential.

The rapid development of vaccines against COVID-19—something that doesn’t yet exist for HIV—has overshadowed the progress on treatments. And yet, the need and public demand for effective medications are evident. Doctors and patients have sought out potential oral COVID-19 treatments, including drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, that did not prove effective in clinical trials. But researchers needed to keep working on the question, because COVID-19 will be with us for the long haul. Although health experts agree that preventing a disease is better than treating its symptoms, not everyone will get vaccinated. People who become infected are worthy of compassion and care, regardless of the circumstances of their infection, and medical treatments that shorten the period of viral transmission and keep unvaccinated COVID-19 patients out of hospital beds will protect everyone.

The COVID-19 treatments that have shown some effectiveness up to this point have significant drawbacks. Remdesivir is an intravenous antiviral used for hospitalized patients with COVID-19. But by the time a patient is admitted, the virus may already have caused considerable damage, and viral replication may have stopped. An intravenous drug has far less power to affect the trajectory of the pandemic than affordable, effective, and short courses of oral pills do.

Until now, the only outpatient therapeutic for COVID-19 has been monoclonal antibody treatments, which are effective in preventing severe disease in high-risk patients. But they are expensive and require intravenous infusion or subcutaneous injection, and health-care providers must monitor their administration closely.

Although molnupiravir—which is named after the Norse god Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir—was being tested for the treatment of the Ebola virus, researchers had not settled upon a purpose for the drug before SARS-CoV-2 arrived on the scene. Early studies of molnupiravir showed that its recipients cleared the coronavirus more rapidly than recipients of a placebo did. The drug did not help patients who were already hospitalized, but in outpatients with mild to moderate disease who had a high vulnerability to severe disease, it reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 30 percent if given within five days of developing symptoms.

The drug proved so beneficial that the clinical study was called off early. Merck applied for emergency-use authorization, and the FDA is expected to review the drug this week. Merck has promised to share its technology with the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), which will allow for more affordable global access to molnupiravir.

Paxlovid, a formula developed largely from scratch for the current pandemic, is actually an RNA-virus protease inhibitor called PF-07321332 “boosted” with another drug called ritonavir. It too was the subject of a clinical trial that was stopped early because the treatment looked so effective. Outpatients who had both COVID-19 and medical conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness were 89 percent less likely to be hospitalized if they received Paxlovid twice daily for five days than if they got a placebo.

The FDA will likely review this important therapeutic before the end of the year. The U.S. government has bought millions of courses of molnupiravir and Paxlovid for Americans in anticipation of the authorization of both. Moreover, Pfizer has promised to accelerate worldwide access to Paxlovid through an agreement with MPP.

The importance of these two highly anticipated outpatient antivirals for COVID-19 cannot be overstated. Both medications were studied in unvaccinated individuals, of which the U.S. and other countries around the world have many. For the vaccinated, “breakthrough” infections are generally mild, but they can lead to time out of work and require cutting back contact with others. Not only should rapid treatment with one of these two antivirals shorten symptoms in breakthrough infections (as is the case with influenza), but bringing down the viral load quickly by inhibiting viral replication should limit transmission.

Further study of the new COVID-19 drugs is under way for potential use in lower-risk individuals and as preventive medications. The development of HIV antivirals also led to the development of “post-exposure prophylaxis,” a strategy in which people who have come in contact with that virus take antivirals to avoid becoming HIV-positive. The new COVID drugs have at least the potential to provide a similar benefit.

Moreover, the development of these two antivirals is spurring research on other COVID-19-specific antivirals. So despite the arrival of Omicron, we still have grounds for optimism.




Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A President Betrayed by Bureaucrats: Scott Atlas Exposes The Real COVID Disaster

I was always surprised that almost all countries adopted the Chinese Communist approach to dealing with the virus: Sweeping lockdowns. As it was mainly the elderly who were dying, it seemed to me that they alone should have been the focus of government action.

But the Leftist establishment have always been sympathetic to Communism so it is no surprise that it was the Communist example that was automatically assumed to be best. The article below shows just how rigid and resitant to evidence the establishment were in gleefuly grabbing their opportunity to control everyone

Jeffrey Tucker

I’m a voracious reader of Covid books but nothing could have prepared me for Scott Atlas’s A Plague Upon Our House, a full and mind-blowing account of the famed scientist’s personal experience with the Covid era and a luridly detailed account of his time at the White House. The book is hot fire, from page one to the last, and will permanently affect your view of not only this pandemic and the policy response but also the workings of public health in general.

Atlas’s book has exposed a scandal for the ages.

It is enormously valuable because it fully blows up what seems to be an emerging fake story involving a supposedly Covid-denying president who did nothing vs. heroic scientists in the White House who urged compulsory mitigating measures consistent with prevailing scientific opinion. Not one word of that is true. Atlas’s book, I hope, makes it impossible to tell such tall tales without embarrassment.

Anyone who tells you this fictional story (including Deborah Birx) deserves to have this highly credible treatise tossed in his direction. The book is about the war between real science (and genuine public health), with Atlas as the voice for reason both before and during his time in the White House, vs. the enactment of brutal policies that never stood any chance of controlling the virus while causing tremendous damage to the people, to human liberty, to children in particular, but also to billions of people around the world.

For the reader, the author is our proxy, a reasonable and blunt man trapped in a world of lies, duplicity, backstabbing, opportunism, and fake science. He did his best but could not prevail against a powerful machine that cares nothing for facts, much less outcomes.

If you have heretofore believed that science drives pandemic public policy, this book will shock you. Atlas’s recounting of the unbearably poor thinking on the part of government-based “infectious disease experts” will make your jaw drop (thinking, for example, of Birx’s off-the-cuff theorizing about the relationship between masking and controlling case spreads).

Throughout the book, Atlas points to the enormous cost of the machinery of lockdowns, the preferred method of Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx: missed cancer screenings, missed surgeries, nearly two years of educational losses, bankrupted small business, depression and drug overdoses, overall citizen demoralization, violations of religious freedom, all while public health massively neglected the actual at-risk population in long-term care facilities. Essentially, they were willing to dismantle everything we called civilization in the name of bludgeoning one pathogen without regard to the consequences.

The fake science of population-wide “models” drove policy instead of following the known information about risk profiles.

“The one unusual feature of this virus was the fact that children had an extraordinarily low risk,” writes Atlas.

“Yet this positive and reassuring news was never emphasized. Instead, with total disregard of the evidence of selective risk consistent with other respiratory viruses, public health officials recommended draconian isolation of everyone.”

“Restrictions on liberty were also destructive by inflaming class distinctions with their differential impact,” he writes, “exposing essential workers, sacrificing low-income families and kids, destroying single-parent homes, and eviscerating small businesses, while at the same time large companies were bailed out, elites worked from home with barely an interruption, and the ultra-rich got richer, leveraging their bully pulpit to demonize and cancel those who challenged their preferred policy options.”

In the midst of continued chaos, in August 2020, Atlas was called by Trump to help, not as a political appointee, not as a PR man for Trump, not as a DC fixer but as the only person who in nearly a year of unfolding catastrophe had a health-policy focus. He made it clear from the outset that he would only say what he believed to be true; Trump agreed that this was precisely what he wanted and needed. Trump got an earful and gradually came around to a more rational view than that which caused him to wreck the American economy and society with his own hands and against his own instincts.

In Task Force meetings, Atlas was the only person who showed up with studies and on-the-ground information as opposed to mere charts of infections easily downloadable from popular websites.

“A bigger surprise was that Fauci did not present scientific research on the pandemic to the group that I witnessed. Likewise, I never heard him speak about his own critical analysis of any published research studies. This was stunning to me. Aside from intermittent status updates about clinical trial enrollments, Fauci served the Task Force by offering an occasional comment or update on vaccine trial participant totals, mostly when the VP would turn to him and ask.”

When Atlas spoke up, it was almost always to contradict Fauci/Birx but he received no backing during meetings, only to have many people in attendance later congratulate him for speaking out. Still, he did, by virtue of private meetings, have a convert in Trump himself, but by then it was too late: not even Trump could prevail against the wicked machine he had permissioned into operation.

It’s a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington story but applied to matters of public health.

From the outset of this disease panic, policy came to be dictated by two government bureaucrats (Fauci and Birx) who, for some reason, were confident in their control over media, bureaucracies, and White House messaging, despite every attempt by the president, Atlas, and a few others to get them to pay attention to the actual science about which Fauci/Birx knew and care little.

When Atlas would raise doubts about Birx, Jared Kushner would repeatedly assure him that “she is 100% MAGA.”

Yet we know for certain that this is not true. We know from a different book on the subject that she only took the position with the anticipation that Trump would lose the presidency in the November election.

That’s hardly a surprise; it’s the bias expected from a career bureaucrat working for a deep-state institution.

Fortunately, we now have this book to set the record straight. It gives every reader an inside look at the workings of a system that wrecked our lives. If the book finally declines to offer an explanation for the hell that was visited upon us – every day we still ask the question why? – it does provide an accounting of the who, when, where, and what. Tragically, too many scientists, media figures, and intellectuals in general went along. Atlas’s account shows exactly what they signed up to defend, and it’s not pretty.

The cliche that kept coming to mind as I read is “breath of fresh air.” That metaphor describes the book perfectly: blessed relief from relentless propaganda. Imagine yourself trapped in an elevator with stultifying air in a building that is on fire and the smoke gradually seeps in from above. Someone is in there with you and he keeps assuring you that everything is fine, when it is obviously not.

That’s a pretty good description of how I felt from March 12, 2020 and onward. That was the day that President Trump spoke to the nation and announced that there would be no more travel from Europe. The tone in his voice was spooky. It was obvious that more was coming. He had clearly fallen sway to extremely bad advice, perhaps he was willing to push lockdowns as a plan to deal with a respiratory virus that was already widespread in the US from perhaps 5 to 6 months earlier.

It was the day that the darkness descended. A day later (March 13), the HHS distributed its lockdown plans for the nation. That weekend, Trump met for many hours with Anthony Fauci, Deborah Birx, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and only a few others. He came around to the idea of shutting down the American economy for two weeks. He presided over the calamitous March 16, 2020, press conference, at which Trump promised to beat the virus through general lockdowns.

Of course he had no power to do that directly but he could urge it to happen, all under the completely delusional promise that doing so would solve the virus problem. Two weeks later, the same gang persuaded him to extend the lockdowns.

Trump went along with the advice because it was the only advice he was fed at the time. They made it appear that the only choice that Trump had – if he wanted to beat the virus – was to wage war on his own policies that were pushing for a stronger, healthier economy. After surviving two impeachment attempts, and beating back years of hate from a nearly united media afflicted by severe derangement syndrome, Trump was finally hornswoggled.

Atlas writes:

“On this highly important criterion of presidential management—taking responsibility to fully take charge of policy coming from the White House—I believe the president made a massive error in judgment. Against his own gut feeling, he delegated authority to medical bureaucrats, and then he failed to correct that mistake.”

The truly tragic fact that both Republicans and Democrats do not want spoken about is that this whole calamity is that did indeed begin with Trump’s decision. On this point, Atlas writes:

Yes, the president initially had gone along with the lockdowns proposed by Fauci and Birx, the “fifteen days to slow the spread,” even though he had serious misgivings. But I still believe the reason that he kept repeating his one question—“Do you agree with the initial shutdown?”—whenever he asked questions about the pandemic was precisely because he still had misgivings about it.

Large parts of the narrative are devoted to explaining precisely how and to what extent Trump had been betrayed. “They had convinced him to do exactly the opposite of what he would naturally do in any other circumstance,” Atlas writes, that is

“to disregard his own common sense and allow grossly incorrect policy advice to prevail…. This president, widely known for his signature “You’re fired!” declaration, was misled by his closest political intimates. All for fear of what was inevitable anyway—skewering from an already hostile media. And on top of that tragic misjudgment, the election was lost anyway. So much for political strategists.”

There are so many valuable parts to the story that I cannot possibly recount them all. The language is brilliant, e.g. he calls the media “the most despicable group of unprincipled liars one could ever imagine.” He proves that assertion in page after page of shocking lies and distortions, mostly driven by political goals.

I was particularly struck by his chapter on testing, mainly because that whole racket mystified me throughout. From the outset, the CDC bungled the testing part of the pandemic story, attempting to keep the tests and process centralized in DC at the very time when the entire nation was in panic. Once that was finally fixed, months too late, mass and indiscriminate PCR testing became the desiderata of success within the White House. The problem was not just with the testing method:

“Fragments of dead virus hang around and can generate a positive test for many weeks or months, even though one is not generally contagious after two weeks. Moreover, PCR is extremely sensitive. It detects minute quantities of virus that do not transmit infection…. Even the New York Times wrote in August that 90 percent or more of positive PCR tests falsely implied that someone was contagious. Sadly, during my entire time at the White House, this crucial fact would never even be addressed by anyone other than me at the Task Force meetings, let alone because for any public recommendation, even after I distributed data proving this critical point.”

The other problem is the wide assumption that more testing (however inaccurate) of whomever, whenever was always better. This model of maximizing tests seemed like a leftover from the HIV/AIDS crisis in which tracing was mostly useless in practice but at least made some sense in theory. For a widespread and mostly wild respiratory disease transmitted the way a cold virus is transmitted, this method was hopeless from the beginning. It became nothing but make work for tracing bureaucrats and testing enterprises that in the end only provided a fake metric of “success” that served to spread public panic.

Early on, Fauci had clearly said that there was no reason to get tested if you had no symptoms. Later, that common-sense outlook was thrown out the window and replaced with an agenda to test as many people as possible regardless of risk and regardless of symptoms. The resulting data enabled Fauci/Birx to keep everyone in a constant state of alarm. More test positivity to them implied only one thing: more lockdowns. Businesses needed to close harder, we all needed to mask harder, schools needed to stay closed longer, and travel needed to be ever more restricted. That assumption became so entrenched that not even the president’s own wishes (which had changed from Spring to Summer) made any difference.

Atlas’s first job, then, was to challenge this whole indiscriminate testing agenda. To his mind, testing needed to be about more than accumulating endless amounts of data, much of it without meaning; instead, testing should be directed toward a public-health goal. The people who needed tests were the vulnerable populations, particularly those in nursing homes, with the goal of saving lives among those who were actually threatened with severe outcomes. This push to test, contact trace, and quarantine anyone and everyone regardless of known risk was a huge distraction, and also caused huge disruption in schooling and enterprise.

Much more HERE